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The Law Is A Ass #325: Did Daredevil Have To Be Disbarred?

lawass-300x150Well, the story didn’t get the law wrong. But I’m not sure it got the law right, either.

The story in question is Daredevil v.3 # 36. The law in question is… Well, that would be telling. Which is exactly what I’ll be doing for the next thousand words or so, telling you about that law.

Daredevil v. 3 # 36 was the culmination of a multi-part story. Multi-part story short: Robert Oglivy has been framed for murder. Robert’s father wanted Matt Murdock, who is secretly Daredevil, to represent his son. Matt was reluctant, because Ogilvy was the head of the latest iteration the Sons of the Serpent – a racist hate group which secretly controlled the New York City justice system. Ogilvy blackmailed Matt by threatening to out Matt as Daredevil, unless Matt agreed to help Robert.

In order to take away Ogilvy’s leverage, Matt…


Tweeks: Power Rangers Super Megaforce For All!

Bj7sV31CAAADiOOThere’s a misconception that the Power Rangers are just for little kids or for boys (or Karen Gillan – you saw her ice bucket challenge, right?), but we think the cast of Saban’s Power Rangers Super Megaforce offers a little something for everyone.   Don’t believe us?  Watch our interview with the Power Rangers and try not to come away charmed and ready to watch the new season Saturdays at noon on Nickelodeon.

John Ostrander: Telling The Story

We distinguish “pop culture” from “High Culture” usually because the main objective of “pop culture” is to entertain while “High Culture” looks into the human condition. It can entertain and should. Tragedy should entertain but in ways that are different from, say, Guardians of the Galaxy. But that is not its primary purpose.

That said, pop culture can also look into the human condition, into the world around us, and “hold a mirror up to nature.” That line is from Shakespeare who is very High Culture now but in his day was disparaged by some as being “too popular.” He appealed to the groundlings – those in the cheap seats – and that is part of the reason, I believe, that he is still so playable today. He knew that to reach someone’s mind and heart you first had to get their attention. The best way was to tell them a story.

That was a lesson that was also taught to me by our own Denny O’Neil. He has been a large-scale influence in my life. I was a fan when he wrote some seminal stories in the Green Lantern/Green Arrow book. The Green Lantern series had low numbers at that point and he was given an opportunity to write it; I once read that he liked the assignment because it was no fail. If he saved the book, that was great. If it got cancelled anyway, management would assume that the book was in a downward spiral and couldn’t be saved. In a way, he couldn’t lose. So he added Green Arrow, got Neal Adams as artist, and took a new path.

That has also influenced my career path; I liked taking on the B list characters. You could play with them, change them, without too much objections by the Higher Ups. You could take chances you might not be able to do with flagship titles. Don’t get me wrong; I would have loved to get a crack at a regular Superman or Batman gig (I did write some stories with the characters but never a regular book) but I found The Spectre to be wide open and Tom Mandrake and I crafted over 60 issues of which I am proud. It’s been one of the highlights of my career.

While ultimately Green Lantern/Green Arrow did get cancelled, Denny set a standard. He taught me that you could write about important subjects, about the issues surrounding that time, and create something that entertained as well as make you think. He addressed racism, drugs, even the environment (among other topics); that wasn’t being done at the time. He showed me what the potential of the medium could be.

He’s never forgotten, however, that the purpose of Pop Culture is to entertain. We were working on a project together with me as writer and he as editor. The purpose of the project was very definitely to make a comment on the subject of guns and gun violence. His direction was very clear. He told me that, in comics, “You can say anything you want but first you have to tell a story.” This wasn’t a pulpit and preaching isn’t narrative. Our first job was to tell a good story. That’s what the reader was paying to get. That was the job. It still is.


Emily S. Whitten’s Grand SDCC Adventure: Gotham Edition

(Editor’s Note: As noted in this space last Tuesday, for the next li’l bit we’ll be running BRAND-NEW Emily S. Whitten columns on Tuesday mornings and on Saturday afternoons! This being Saturday afternoon – Eastern USA time – here we go!)

Batman is one of DC Comics’ greatest characters, and part of what makes Batman great is his supporting cast, his rogues gallery, and the whole mood and setting of Gotham, the city that surrounds him and, in part, defines him. I’ve always loved seeing portrayals of Gotham, both in print and on screen, so I’m definitely looking forward to the new TV show Gotham (premiering September 22). Not only is the show supposed to feature the city as a character, but it’s also going to be examining the origins and psychology behind many famous characters from the Bat-verse along the way. The show focuses on Jim Gordon (later to be The Commissioner, and always one of my favorite Bat-verse characters) and his “rise to prominence” in Gotham City before Batman arrives on the scene. It also features young versions of Bruce (of course), The Penguin, Poison Ivy, Catwoman, The Riddler, and ostensibly more. Sounds good to me!

At SDCC I got to talk to some of the cast and crew of Gotham, and I’m pretty excited by what I’ve heard about the show so far. To share in my excitement, check out the interviews below!

Click here to watch actor Donal  Logue (Detective Harvey Bullock) discuss Bullock’s role in the police department and Gotham, his relationship with Jim Gordon, the difference between working in a comics world versus other shows he’s done, villains he’s excited to see show up in Gotham, and the importance of honoring the Batman legacy for fans.

Click here to see actress Jada Pinkett Smith (Fish Mooney) show off her favorite prop, talk about what it’s like to be a new character in the Batman world and a strong female character and focal point in the male-dominated world of Gotham, and discuss Fish as the progenitor for a lot of Gotham’s villains.

Click here to see actress Erin Richards  (Barbara Kean) talk about her role as Jim Gordon’s fiancée, her favorite part of the set, what she loves about the Batman series, the city as a character, and how female characters shine on the show.

Click here to watch actor Robin Lord Taylor (Oswald Cobblepot) discuss becoming the Penguin, his character’s relationships with Fish Mooney, Bruce, and other characters, and the background of the Cobblepot family.

Click here to listen to executive producer Bruno Heller give an overview of his view of the series and discuss the supervillains in the show, how they intend to develop the characters over time, and the psychology of Batman and his villains.

And when you’re done with all that, shine your Bat-signals up into the sky in anticipation of Gotham this fall (what, you don’t all have Bat-signals at home? Just me, then) and until next time, Servo Lectio!

Martha Thomases: Sex and Comic Book Marketing

It is a truth universally acknowledged that women in possession of disposable income must be dissuaded from buying superhero comic books.

Okay, that’s not how literature works. It’s not even supposed to be how capitalism works. According to the economic theories I understand, under capitalism, the market determines what products are offered for sale. This is not a comment on the quality of the products, but rather what the public wants. So Coca-Cola and McDonalds make a lot of money, because the public wants cheap sugar, salt and fat.

However, the least common denominator is not the only way to be a successful capitalist. There is a lot of money to be made in niche markets. For example, there are enough people who don’t like Coke for a company like Jones Soda to be successful. There is probably a restaurant in your area that isn’t a burger joint like McDonalds, but does well enough in your market.

Niche markets are even more important in the entertainment business. Sometimes the public wants to laugh, and sometimes the public wants to cry and sometimes the public wants to be scared and sometimes the public wants to think big thoughts and sometimes the public just wants adrenaline.

Which brings us back to comic books.

I can’t recall a time when there were so many different kinds of graphic stories to read. There are comics and graphic novels in all sorts of genres: for children, for non-fiction readers, for mysteries and science fiction fans, even literary fiction. There are far more different kinds of people at comic book conventions and even at comic book stores than I can remember seeing at any other time.

It would seem like a great time for a comic book publisher with deep pockets to experiment with different kinds of books. In this specific case, I’m talking about Marvel (with Disney’s bank). They’ve been doing some cool stuff, like Hawkeye, which look different from the rest of the line.

Marvel says they want to publish comics that will attract women readers, comics with strong female characters that will inspire girls to regard themselves as heroines. Characters like Spider-Woman.

And then they do this.

Marvel hired Milo Manara, an artist best known for his erotic work, to do a variant cover for the launch of their new series. To no one’s surprise, he turned in a piece that looks not the least bit heroic. If anything, that pose reminds me of what my cat does when I scratch her hips.

There have been a lot of articles in the blogosphere about what is wrong with this cover, from the anatomy to the politics. And I find the politics appalling.

But that’s not what I want to talk about. I want to talk about the marketing.

There is no way a woman or girl who is thinking about starting to read superhero comics is going to pick up a book with this cover. It looks like the title character is groveling. There is no threat or hint of action. Instead, the character is on her knees, wearing an outfit that looks so tight that it would give the wearer the mother of all wedgies. There are certainly women book buyers who enjoy a little bit of pain and submission in their recreational reading, but that’s not who Marvel says they’re trying to appeal to here.

I don’t fault Manara for the cover. He did what he was hired to do. I fault the person who assigned the cover to him, knowing full well what he would deliver.

When the new Spider-Woman book fails to reach women readers, Marvel will, undoubtedly, claim they tried their best, but women just don’t want to read superhero comics. We hear the same thing from the toy industry, claiming that girls only want to play with dolls and pretend to be princesses or mommies (or both).

The problem with this is that it isn’t true. If you offer girls a toy that lets them pretend to be scientists, as Lego did, stores can’t keep the kits in stock.

You might think, because capitalism, that a toy that sells out is most likely successful enough to stay in production. However, that’s not happening. It seems as if even money isn’t enough to smash gender stereotypes in corporate America.

There’s a nice little niche market there, for a strong female venture capitalist.


Box Office Democracy: “The Expendables 3”

ex3-posterThe first two Expendables films worked for me in the same way old-timers days work for me in baseball.  They take a career that scarcely has any use for people over the hill and gave them a place to look relevant in a limited space.  My biggest problem with The Expendables 3 is that it deviates too much from that idea by introducing a crop of young guns that expose the existing cast as being largely too old for this line of work while the presence of the established stars steals all the gravitas from the scenes shared with the newer actors.  There are great individual performances and a couple of surprising ones. Excellent choices, but ultimately the Expendables franchise seems to be on a downward trajectory and I don’t know how it will right itself.


Box Office Democracy: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles”

It’s worth noting that I loved all three of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles released in the early 90s even though there is no way those movies hold up.  I looked at clips on YouTube this week and could barely stomach a few minutes.  This reboot of the franchise is objectively better than those movies.  I don’t know that people will look back on it fondly in 24 years but there’s a level of commitment in production design and casting that goes above and beyond what we got with cash-in kids movies two decades ago.  While this new revival of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is probably the perfect thing for the audience of pre-teen and pre-pre-teen boys it wasn’t particularly enjoyable for me.

The design of the Ninja Turtles is a revelation this time around.  Rather than being the lazy palette swaps they were for decades all four turtles have unique looks this time around.  They’re different in size, they wear different gear, and they even have different mask designs.  This does so much to communicate character that was ignored for so long I didn’t even consider it as an option.  I feel strange lavishing praise on this movie for something any competent costume designer could have done in 1990 with no problem at all (people have been wearing clothes in movies for decades) but they just didn’t try before.

The increased emphasis on production design is wasted a little on a movie that generally looks unpleasant.  I’ve been telling people that Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles looks like a movie I wouldn’t want to touch and that’s not just because there are reptile monsters as principle cast members.  Everything, even human-only scenes, looks so slick and shiny that it comes across as slimy.  It permeates the entire film and made me uncomfortable in the theater.  I might be an edge case but everyone I’ve shared this idea with has instantly understood what I was talking about.  I’m sure executive producer Michael Bay had very little direct hand in the visual look of this film but it sure felt like someone was trying, and failing, to imitate his signature style and it spilled in to something worse.

It feels terrible to say this but I’m not sure that I will ever really believe Megan Fox when she’s playing a smart character.  I don’t believe she’s smart in her day-to-day life and she isn’t a good enough actress to convince me her characters are.  Her April O’Neil is a more essential part of this story than past Turtles stories and this results in her having to carry an incredible narrative load and she doesn’t seem capable of enduring that kind of strain.  She never seems clever enough to deduce the things she does and the emotion she plays most often is a combination scared and confused that doesn’t serve the story.  Will Arnett is wasted as the vaguely pervy cameraman.  He’s the second most important human character almost by default and while he does great work with what he’s given it isn’t nearly enough and I found myself focusing on him when he was on screen waiting for moments that never came.  This is probably not a problem 12 year-olds will have.

Ultimately this movie is trying to appeal to two audiences: young people now who could become hooked on the franchise for life and people who were hooked on a previous incarnation of the franchise and are consuming the new product for nostalgia.  Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles does a great job of appealing to the former audience but offers little for the latter half to really enjoy once they’ve gotten over the idea that Megan Fox is nice to look at.  The hype was good enough to bring enough of that older crowd in for a big opening weekend but they’re going to have to really hook that younger demographic to make this a winning franchise long term.  While this movie is certainly competently produced enough to do it I wish it had been able to do a little more for the six year-old inside of me.

Photo by AndarsKI

Box Office Democracy: “Lucy”

The nicest thing I can think to say about Lucy is that it is exactly how I would have remade 2001: A Space Odyssey if I had done it when I was 16 years old.  I would have replaced the male astronaut with an attractive woman, kept the trippy end sequence and replaced the first two-thirds of the movie with a mediocre tribute to Hard Boiled.  I also probably would have struggled to fill 90 minutes and would have added some really strange filler to get it to a marginally respectful run time like 89 minutes.  Thankfully no one was willing to give me $65 million to make a movie when I was 16 (unfortunately no one will do it now) but we’re stuck with what Luc Besson made here.  I was stuck at least; you might still be able to save yourself. (more…)

TWEEKS: Making the Tough Decisions for #SDCC

HARLEY-QUINN-INVADES-COMIC-CON-INTERNATIONAL-SAN-DIEGO-1-We know this is totally a #FirstWorldProblem, but getting one’s schedule set for Comic Con is really stressful.  With the SDCC app and an Excel spreadsheet in hand, we’re scurrying around the San Diego Convention Center right now in search of scoops (of probably both ice cream and news), but here’s a look at hard tween geek choices that had to be made and some very cool activities downtown.

Who Are The Top 20 Vampires in Books?

Vampires have been and will always be a wonderful creature that runs through the pages of comic books, graphic novels and literary books, but these few stand out as some of the best of the lot. Of course choosing vampires in literature is always a daunting task, and as such, is entirely subjective.

1. Lestat from The Vampire Lestat by Anne Rice
Anne Rices Vampire Lestat 1Lestat de Lioncourt from Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. “The Brat Prince” has helped form what many see as the template for how a vampire should be in modern day fiction. His boldness, enthusiasm, defiance and charm has made him the iconic vampire of the 20th and 21st century. You can begin to read his exploits in the first book of the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice in ‘Interview With A Vampire‘.

(You can buy it HERE!)

2. Carmilla from The Dark Blue by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu

800px-CarmillaAppearing in 1871 as a serial narrative in the magazine ‘The Dark Blue’, Carmilla predates Bram Stoker’s Dracula by 27 years, and even though it is lesser known and far shorter, the impact it has had is very noticeable. Being the first lesbian female vampire in literature, she’s easily one of the most iconic, even with the obscure following. You can find her originally in ‘The Dark Blue’ or in the authors later short stories, ‘In A Glass Darkly’.

3. Dr. Babette Varanus from The Ouroboros Cycle series by G.D. Falksen
One of my personal favourite characters in a new series by G.D. Falksen, Dr. Babette Varanus is one of the main protagonists, and is one of the Shashavani. Erudite vampires who are all about the pursuit of knowledge, and when you live forever that is the best usage of time as far as I’m concerned. This series is intelligent and has a fresh twist on supernatural creatures (such as vampires) that isn’t typical in anything I have read in quite a long time. That goes doubly for the characters. Dr. Varanus is tiny, sassy, all about the sciences, and like myself she is not fond of duels at Christmas time. Absolutely check out this series.

4. Kurt Barlow from Salem’s Lot by Stephen King
The principal ”bad guy” in Stephen King’s ‘Salem’s Lot, Barlow is strangely a little known character among most readers despite being the main ‘antagonist’. It’s a rare case of the book having more fame than the characters in it, as opposed to Stoker’s Dracula being more well known than the book. Salem’s Lot is well worth the read if you have not done so before, and Kurt Barlow is a character you should know in your vampiric repertoire.

5.Dracula from the Dracula novel by Bram Stoker
Not really needing an introduction at this point, Stoker’s Dracula is a character that is arguably the most well known vampire to date. If you don’t know who Dracula is…You best click that hyperlink and educate yourself! Remember to stay away from the sparkles, my friends.
As comics readers, we’re of course partial to the version drawn by Gene Colan and written by Marv Wolfman. [[[The Tomb Of Dracula]]] for Marvel lasted 70 issues, spawned two magazine spinoffs and an anime adaptation(!), and introduced the world to Blade, who would go on to be featured in three movies and a TV series.